Months ago I sat on the floor between rows of wooden shelves in Powell’s Books. I had found The Wabi-Sabi House by Robyn Griggs Lawrence and couldn’t wait to walk the block or so back to Stumptown for my morning coffee before I opened it. Its pages looked a bit dated and glossy, the black and white pictures mildly disappointing, but I had found a gift of a book – a second hand copy that smelled of wood, dust and laminated paper. It holds a warm, accessible invitation to embrace the ancient Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, the art of accepting and celebrating transience and imperfect beauty.

 

The book’s message is about slowing down, taking time to, ‘find beauty in what seems ordinary – and to turn the ‘ordinary’ into something beautiful’, the value of shedding materialism, of authenticity, of living simply, of the hand made, well loved, worn and flawed. It’s about an appreciation of three simple realities: ‘nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.’ And the value of learning to consider others before ourselves.

It feels relevant. And almost accessible.

 

Wabi-sabi is not the self-conscious simplicity and nostalgic collecting of thrifted and lovely things to photograph and share with each other on Instagram.

 

Like hygge, wabi-sabi is about being not having.

 

I still have an awful lot to learn. For months, I’ve been staring at my avarice, emptying our drawers and sheds and buying less.

I can see beauty in a curved stem, a cobbled street, a patched rug. But I am still wanting, in so many ways. Lacking. And still convincing myself that I need more.

I’m embarrassed by my greed, by the piles of magazines, books and trinkets. There is so little space in my life to move quietly, to exhale, to grow things, to be creative, to think because of what it takes to manage the stuff of my life.

When I sat down to write about wabi-sabi for Kinfolk, I realized that it would be coarse to attempt to define a way of being that the even the Japanese are reluctant to articulate.

 

Just before my deadline, I skulked about on the internet, re-read The Wabi-Sabi House and procrastinated by walking the dogs and visiting my elderly neighbour for coffee.

It was in her quiet, ordered, simple home that I found wabi-sabi – in the stillness of her wooden kitchen, in the texture of her morning and the shape of her favourite ceramic cups, in her honesty and grace.

And I found it in my admiration of another dear friend who has the beauty of a San bushman and lives like an artistic shaman in a tiny coastal settlement on the west coast of South Africa. He walks barefoot, quietly sweeps his home every morning and evening, folds, mends and makes. And often stands still to smoke and think.

So, I wrote a piece that attempted to capture but not define the intangible spirit of wabi-sabi. It’s an acknowledgment, I suppose, of both friends and my hope that when I grow up (I’m forty five), I’ll learn to live wabi-sabi in the same generous, unselfconscious way.

 

wabi-sabi

wabi-sabi
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 19 June 2013

“Be strong, serve patiently, love generously, live simply. Enjoy fellowship. eat and drink modestly, celebrate the festivals. Breathe deeply, sing and make music, walk often, cycle and recycle. Be thrifty, prefer cash-flow to possession, give good measure. Let your work be your prayer.”

(An extract from Towards a True Balance by John P. Rogers)

 

Towards balance
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 5 October 2012

Hygge is about what makes us happy, what makes us feel open hearted and alive.

For years I have wanted to piece together a collection of happiness lists – lists of what makes each one of us happy, lists of those things we love. I want to create a site where we can share our handwritten lists.  Simply presented, adding nothing more than our name, our age and our profession. I can see them pinned above the seats on the underground or on the wall of a bus shelter.

I know our rhythms and priorities change from day to day but each one of us knows the the small everyday details and simple pleasures that always enrich us, make us feel fortunate and whole.  Our lists are poetic. They are unique. And they are worth sharing.

Here’s mine (cut and pasted, for now, from an old Appleworks document). Reading through it made me smile:

I love red peppers, cow parsley, family, my children, stillness, friends, spirals, skulls, jade green, bare feet, open fires, street art, clogs, tails, crochet, food, the sea, trance, Africa, orb webs, Rowan trees, coffee, Mary Oliver, drumming, snail shells, Gerard Manley Hopkins, community, growing things, graffiti, the smell of new books, the smell of old books, ferns unfolding, photography, vanilla, rain on Lupins, Denmark, the moment before sleep, a kestrel slope soaring, allotments, fennel, rosaries, the seasons, dark chocolate, lying spoons, sunshine, tribal bellydance, the smell of wild honeysuckle, flea markets, fonts, Roger Deakin, simplicity, candlelight, disco balls, bones, beach combing, hygge, walking the dogs, dawn, dusk, vintage textiles, cats, Ash trees, collective nouns, ritual, children’s art, tides, home, a blank sheet of paper, Rosa Rugosa, Konrad’s hands, bonfires, freewheeling downhill, shrines, window seats, smooth stones, hag stones, orchids, wooden crosses, ground glass beads, geese in flight, notebooks, charcoal, jasmine, sex, fairy lights, hearts, earth, hot baths, dark cinemas, night walking, heavy blankets, holding hands after school, modernist architecture, cadmium red, poems on the underground, the smell of cut grass, spinning tops, sheepskins, honesty, the words drift, parched, naughty, nincompoop, yield, crepiscule, stop, kiss and coalesce, Polaroids, biros, hot water bottles, totems, Autumn, Tate Modern, dappled light, candlesticks, oil paints, carrot cake, outsider art, red wine, bell tents, lanterns, Cy Twombly, Christmas Eve, rosemary, hand stitching, flodeboller, AfrikaBurn, bed.

 

 

Happiness lists
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 1 October 2012

 

I spent the summer in a state of entanglement. Bindweed has twisted itself around the roses. The dogs have been caught in burrows and brambles. We became embroiled in everybody else’s dramas and plans with no time to connect, to rest and read, to slow down.

My yarn and cabin were neglected, sitting in shadow beneath the trees.  By the close of summer, we were taut with fatigue and our little girl’s hair was so tangled we had to cut out thick dreads.

When I allowed myself to be convinced that I should become an ‘authority’ site, not a simple blog, I ended up with an illogical mess between two web platforms. I had only wanted help with SEO. But, it got me thinking about the purpose of the internet.  And about greed.  My conclusion is that it’s easy to lose our integrity here.  It shouldn’t be about self promotion but connection.

Today, possibly behind the curve, I discovered Theron Humphrey’s This Wild Idea.  http://thiswildidea.com His journey, (across America meeting a new person everyday, for 365 days) and his tender photographs and simple interviews transformed my day.  This man has got it right – he is forging real connection, telling people’s stories, celebrating the beauty and honesty of their everyday lives.

 

Disentangled
Posted by Louisa Thomsen Brits on 24 September 2012
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